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Food Dude

Irish gastropub comes to Ingersoll

9/24/2014

Blackened ribeye at The Waverly.

Blackened ribeye at The Waverly.

If Ingersoll were human, she would be my favorite, eccentric aunt. No other street in town represents such democracy of commerce — tattoo shops and massage parlors next to doctors’ offices and pet spas, dive bars next to French bistros. Where else in Des Moines would one find an exclusive boutique like Silver Fox half a block from a Dollar Store? Draft beers cost as little as $1 and as much as $8 on Ingersoll. There is something for nearly every taste.

Signage tells an historic tale of the avenue. In the 1960s, some people resented the many chain restaurant signs — Henry’s, Burger King, Hardee’s, Howard Johnson’s — that blighted the old gal’s makeup. All of those are long departed now. The Ingersoll Theatre’s marquee proclaims “Book Your Event” but gives a phone number with only five digits, as if its glory days were not gone with the winds that blew away its veneer. Eatery A, the hottest new restaurant in the ‘hood, refuses to even have a sign.

The restaurants of Ingersoll are as diverse as anything. Stalwarts of more than half a century (Noah’s, Jesse’s Embers, El Patio) share the street with new kids on the east end who have resuscitated the life of chains, this time without blatant signage. Expansions are rife with Sakari having doubled its size and Manhattan Deli in an early stage of doing the same. Real estate has been moving fast with several new owners repurposing properties.

The most interesting makeover is taking place in the kitchen of The Waverly, in the old Flanagan’s. I visited in early summer after noticing they called themselves a gastropub, usually defined as “a place with high end beer and food.” The kitchen had not yet transformed into that dream, but I was told to come back in September. Actually, I returned before then after discovering that The Waverly was serving some of the best burgers and fries around. The new menu is set to debut any day now, and it definitely brings something new to Des Moines — Irish gastropub fare.

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The menu headings are even written with Gaelic words for the various sections. That which translates as appetizers includes salmon cakes on kale, with citrus yogurt and fried leeks; blue mussels in whiskey cream sauce with leeks and tomatoes; wings that are baked and then flash fried; cheese plates from The Cheese Shop with baguettes from La Mie; an antipasti plate that includes prosciutto-wrapped melon, marinated buffalo mozzarella, and a skewer of artichokes, pepperoni and olives. More typical appetizers include chicken strips, spinach artichoke dip and fish and chips.

Salad choices feature an Irish salad of fresh greens, apples, pears and candied oats with blue cheese. Potato leek is the soup star. Sandwiches include meatballs made with lamb. Those are also served on sour dough pizza and pasta. An Alfredo dish is made Irish style, with angel hair, whiskey glazed mussels and shrimp, tossed in garlic cream sauce. Campanelle are dressed with house made sausage and red sauce.

Steak frites employ ribeye, blackened with whiskey, blackberry and peppercorn. Mine was a generous cut with lots of spinalis dorsi (the outer lip that is more tender than the eye). Fries were superbly crisp, and caramelized carrots were a perfect complement. Other entrees include a blackened salmon with blue cheese and “Irish Creole” shrimp. To an Irish guy in Iowa, side dishes are most exciting of all. They include braised cabbage with bacon; apple and pear slaw; and legendary colcannon. That dish is an Irish masterpiece of potatoes, butter, cream and cabbage that has inspired many memories and some of the most bittersweet ballads ever written.

Side Dishes: Better Homes & Garden is opening its test kitchen for a two-day event of cooking classes and good food Oct. 10 -11. Tickets are $395, at www.eventbite.com. Bolton & Hay is commencing a once a month Thursday night cooking class series. $35 each at www.boltonhay.com. CV

Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.

The Waverly
2120 Ingersoll Ave., 528-2293
Mon. – Thurs. 4 p.m. midnight, Fri. 4 p.m. – 2 a.m., Sat. noon – 2 a.m., Sun. noon – 9 p.m.

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